Chants of Sennaar Review
Certain games manage to construct a truly inspiring gameplay mechanic. Portal allowed players to seamlessly jump from one point to another and Braid played with time to tell a wonderful tale. Chants of Sennaar also aims to tread new ground by allowing you to decipher languages in order to overcome the many barriers that you will encounter on your journey. While this may sound daunting, Rundisc perfectly executes its ambitious premise to create an unforgettable experience.
A hierarchy resides in the world which causes a divide in civilization. As a mysterious figure, you must wander the land, and learn about its culture and history in an attempt to unite society. Isolation lingers as each group you meet speaks a unique language. Your goal is to connect with these people which then unfolds a larger narrative that is packed with secrecy and intrigue. In the beginning, you’ll be oblivious but as you progress, you discover elements of the story. It’s a clever and unique way to tell a tale and due to this, you will become invested in the plot and want to acquire knowledge about the area and its inhabitants.
The Writing on the Wall
The biblical myth of the Tower of Babel is at the heart of the tale. Chants of Sennaar takes this concept and develops it into a rewarding puzzler where you must solve linguistic conundrums. People within the same community can talk to one another and this is represented through glyphs. Your goal is to work out the meaning of these in order to learn the language. To do so, you must closely observe and take part in scenarios to work out which symbols could relate to certain actions. The game includes a method of writing in your predictions which will then appear whenever you see that symbol again. This form of notetaking is implemented seamlessly and effectively which removes the need to use paper and pen. Your journal continues to build and add key information for you to develop your knowledge of the language.
Like real-world languages, you’ll begin to identify the etymology and make connections with similar glyphs to work out the meaning. At particular points, you will then need to link images and words that will translate those aspects of the language. The satisfaction when solving a puzzle is immense and for a moment you’ll feel link a linguistic genius. In addition to vernacular conundrums, there are also environmental elements too. These tend to be more logic-focused and add variety to the gameplay. Everything has a purpose. While at first, you may assume that you’re playing a simple card game or hide and seek with a child, in fact, you are learning keywords that will help you progress.
Exploration is key. You are free to roam the stunning world in search of clues in order to progress. The interconnected, labyrinth design is a joy to wander and you will soon learn the ins and outs of every location. As with a lot of games in the genre, there are points where you may struggle to know how to continue. Fortunately, Rundisc has considered this and added a non-obtrusive system that highlights points of interest. When you hold the R button, these sections become visible on the screen with completed points shown in black and incomplete points with a white pulse. Rather than outrightly giving you the answer, you are simply guided in the right direction which still makes solving the puzzles rewarding.
Stealth segments intersperse the gameplay but still have puzzle aspects to it. You will need to wait for guards to pass, distract them, and move at certain points in order to reach your destination. While these sections are enjoyable, you don’t get full freedom to sneak past people. Instead, you simply point to the location and press a button to venture over. Due to this, it can be easy to accidentally flick to the wrong location and fail the scenario.
Every frame is a piece of art. There’s a minimalist ethos that permeates the design which adds to the theme of isolation which persists throughout. The European comic design and color palette creates a contrast between societies and helps to add atmosphere to each region. The architecture is sublime and builds on the Pop Art aesthetic with tall buildings and winding paths that create a maze-like world. The incredible visuals are backed by an equally beautiful soundtrack that captures the cultures that inspire the world. Medieval, Middle Eastern and Western instruments complement the overall design and combine to create a presentation that is truly unique and special.
Chants of Sennaar is both unique and brilliant. The puzzles are perfectly pitched to offer enough challenge to allow you to progress and make you feel like a linguistic genius. Although the stealth sections are a little rigid, fans of puzzlers will fall in love with this beautiful title.
***A Nintendo Switch key was provided by the publisher***
- Innovative Puzzles
- Beautiful Aesthetics
- Intriguing Storytelling
- Stealth is Rigid
- Niche Appeal